Believe it or not every Indian intends to visit Switzerland at least once in a life time. Any first timer making a casual visit to Europe would be recipient of comments such as Europe jake tune Swiss Nahi dekha ! Kya c**** hain tu?? Meaning none could be more dumb than you if you haven’t visited Swiss during an Europe visit !! I have met people spending a million or more bucks (INR) to visit their dreamland.
No wonder when one sees, Hindied instructions at many tourist locations there !! The reason behind such a fanaticism traces back to romantic Bollywood movies from 1980s. The love nurtured then is fulfilled at retirement age !!
I am no different from my fellow brothers and sisters… After having carried this burden for so many years, I finally decided to pull the monkey off my neck and hence the visit to Swiss this month.
However forget about all I said above, the purpose of this blog is to share some experiences and research I had over the month to make my a weeks visit as fun-filled as possible. Since I visited Interlaken, the following text will be referring to the excursion in and around the same.
First things first
It is very important to determine the number of days to visit. The reason I say this is because there is so much to see and so many things to do, it becomes quite difficult to determine that magic number.
The most important factor from my of view would be the Budget. Swiss guys have made sure that they earn maximum out of each visitor there. Hence fix your budget and then embark on the planning for your journey.
The second important thing is how are you going to travel ? By a car or by public transport ? Swiss transport system provides multiple kinds of (confusing) passes to assist hassle free and economical travel. One thing you need to remember while doing the calculations is that, at some point in time you need to leave your vehicle behind use one of those Mountain trains, Cable cars, Ships, or funicular trains…! As a result it becomes quit important if you are willing to travel by car to the farthest point possible and then use other means of transport or use the public transport in entirety. You should actually sit down with calculator and measure bucks per mile plus parking plus remaining public transport vs Swiss passes plus remaining public transport. Although you can obtain this information very easily for the sake of completeness I paste the same here as well. Please note, that all prices and other information is pertaining to current month.
This popular Rail Pass for Switzerland gives you unlimited access on the network of Swiss Travel System. The Swiss Pass is sold for 4, 8, 15 or 22 days or one month and allows a free entrance to over 400 museums and exhibitions.
Swiss Flexi Pass
With the Swiss Flexi Pass, you can freely choose your travelling days. The Swiss Flexi Pass gives you access on the Swiss Travel System network for 3, 4, 5 or 6 non-consecutive days within a month.
Swiss Transfer Ticket
This transfer ticket is valid from the Swiss border or from a Swiss airport to your final destination and back. The Swiss Transfer Ticket is probably the best deal, if you spend your holidays in one location.
With the Swiss Card you get the same as with the Swiss Transfer Ticket plus unlimited tickets at half price. The Swiss Card is valid for one month and ideal for holidays in one specific region.
Source: Swiss Pass Information
The third most important thing to realize is that, Swiss travel system makes sure that most of the times, you cannot cover more than one place on your check-list. One can attribute that to the difficult terrain but irrespective of the journey time the frequency of trains/buses etc. to the places is at half an hour or one hour. Hence it becomes quite challenging to cover more than one place in entirety in a day! It is specially important for those travelling with babies or elderly people. Hence don’t try to rush around, relax and enjoy your vacation with an activity per day !!
The fourth important thing to remember is that, in the wake of enthusiasm don’t plan for too many mountain tops – specially on consecutive days. The first day you take too many photos only to get disillusioned in next few days. Mix and match your attractions such that they keep you always interested.
Lastly, be flexible. Especially successful visits to mountain tops depend a lot on the weather – which keeps changing quite frequently. Hence one cannot predict until the last day. Be ready to move the plans around such that you make most out of those sunny hours.
Having said that, a typical question after your recent vacation is, “so what did you do there?” Or “how was your vacation?” , “Can you please share details about… “. To address all those queries further in this blog, I will try to summarize my vacation plan as guideline for potential visitors. All those interested can take excerpts out of it… No copyrights !! ;) Please note all those party kind of people – interested in night life – will be disappointed hence I warn not to read further.
For your information the details of my journey were:
1. Place: Interlaken
2. Days: 6
3. Hotel: Backpackers Villa
4. Pass: Swiss pass for 4 days from 3rd till 6th day
5. Travel: directly to Interlaken.
For the last point if your already have Swiss pass, valid from the same day of your entry into Swiss, then you can save some money by leaving your fast train at the border and picking up local transport.
As I did over 6 days……
Reach Interlaken, do check in, relax and go around the city and get acquainted with things around.
I wanted to add certain thrill to my vacation. Visiting places and taking photographs is one part however if one has to do the same over few days that’s perfect receipe to get bored. Hence my suggestion would be in case of long vacation and deep pockets, spice up your journey with some thrill. There are a lot of activities attracting tourists the entire day. For ex. The whole day para gliders kept descending in front of our hotel park. One can go for Para-gliding! rafting! kayaking! Skiing (of course).
I decided to go for Hang-gliding. Though the name is quite similar and confusing with para-gliding, in para-gliding one descends quietly like sitting on a chair car, however if you want to have more fun at 180 degrees, go for hang-gliding. Further differences can be easily Googled! Also note that it is not mandatory do these activities in Swiss as they might be pretty costly as compared to similar deals in Austria or Germany. Be wise !
I shall share the link where I booked the my hang-gliding activity. We jumped from Beatenberg mountain top about 1250 meters height. It is done in tandem with trainer so don’t worry about safety. One has to run a few steps upto the cliff before jumping. Even if you don’t run after a couple of steps owing to the unavoidable anxiety, don’t worry, your trainer are well aware of such situations and they will carry you. The flight lasts for about 10-15 minutes. Enjoy the lake views, mountains and city below. After having spent this much do not hesitate to spend a few more bucks on photos/videos. It’s a life time experience.
One important thing don’t forget to put a motion sickness tablet in the pocket in case you feel uneasy after the flight. Else enjoy Swiss beer !!
Any mountain top. We decided to visit Schilthorn. No particular reason, but the idea was to start with a mountain which has exciting train journey showing landscapes followed by various cable cars taking you over steep and frightening cliffs to the top. It’s a James Bond mountain. There is revolving restaurant at the top where you can enjoy a meal and get some photos with the yester-years James Bond. Actually the place including the restaurant was sponsored by the production house for the movie only later being turned into a tourist attraction.
Here is the link and the timetable you can plan from Interlaken Ost. Train runs every half an hour and overall journey including all kinds of travel takes about 45 minutes to reach to the top. The train goes until a certain point which is Lauterbrunnen after that you need to get into Bus to Stechelberg before boarding cable car for there. One tip, if possible buy tickets at the Ost station to avoid queuing the base stations of cable cars. You can easily get stuck with one of those large tourist groups.
Timetable aerial cableway Schilthorn
Stechelberg – Gimmelwald – Mürren – Birg – Schilthorn
Courses every 30 minutes from Stechelberg, from 7.25 to 16.25 h.
Ascents from Stechelberg every hour xx.25 and xx.55 h.
Descent from Schilthorn every hour xx.03 and xx.33 h. Last ride 18.03 h.
Timetable funicular Allmendhubel
Mürren – Allmendhubel
9.00 to 17.00 h, courses every 20 minutes
One thing which we could not make was to visit Trümmelbachfälle. These are the closest glacier falls one can get to and are supposed to be really beautiful. As I said, when in bus before Stechelberg the bus stops at Trümmelbachfälle stop. During summer it is open until 6 pm (around) hence plan accordingly.
If you are going to Trümmelbach Falls by train, go via Interlaken (SBB/BLS/Brünigbahn) toward Lauterbrunnen (BOB). A bus will take you from there to the Trümmelbach Falls bus stop.
The Trümmelbach Glacier Waterfalls are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from the beginning of April to the beginning of November and from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. in July and August.
All the Trümmelbach Falls except the lowest were invisible to human eyes, and unapprochable, from the last Ice Age about 15’000 years ago until they were first rendered accessible in 1877. They were hidden inside the mountain, which is why the name «Trümmelbach» does not convey a visual impression, as is the rule with waterfalls, but an acoustic one. «Trümmelbach» comes from «Trommelbach» meaning a stream that sounds like a drum.
In 1877 – 1886 the lowermost falls were rendered accessible by flights of steps and bridges. The tunnel lift, which from the technical point of view is a funicular with a counterweight, was constructed in 1913, at the same time as the access to the 3 upper falls. The flight of steps at the top of the tunnel, the gallery and lookouts were built in 1986.
The lower part of the gorge was connected to the upper half during the winter of 1990. From the interior of the mountain, rugged rock formations and 3 additional falls became visible.
A visit to Interlaken cannot be complete without visiting the TopOfEurope – Jungfraujoch. It is although debatable if that’s the real top, nevertheless they market it so. It is one of the longest and the costliest journeys where one has to change as many as 4 different trains from Ost. It takes around 2 and half hours from Ost but is quite beautiful. You have to change at strategic ( read panoramic) locations allowing to take sufficient photos. You will never put your camera down. Brace yourself for freezing subzero temperatures at the top, Although you can stay within enclosed temperature controlled area, but more fun is outside. One can visit Glacier, do some sport activities, go up the observatory, visit Ice palace and enjoy the food at an Indian restaurant “Bollywood”.
The top is really at an altitude of 12000 feet or 3500 meters approximately. Hence one may feel difficulty in breathing , dizziness or committing sensation. Hence be prepared !! People with some acute diseases specially have to take care. Although there is no eating area for self food, one can carry to save some costs as there is a eating area where you can sit down. They have actually put a board there saying that it’s not a picnic area !! ;)
There are two ways to go up via Lauterbrunnen and via Grindewald. Hence add novelty by going up on way and descending the other way. As usual buy tickets before hand to save time and most importantly go only during perfect sunny weather for a breathtaking experience.
Arriving by rail
From Basel you travel directly to Interlaken Ost with Intercity trains. From Zurich and Geneva, you have to change in Bern. Trains run every 30 minutes.
At Interlaken Ost you change to the regional train for Lauterbrunnen/Grindelwald. Please note the destination on the carriages.
In Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald you change to the Wengernalp Railway for Kleine Scheidegg.
At Kleine Scheidegg you change to the Jungfrau Railway, which takes you to the Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe in about an hour.
The whole journey time and activity saps your energy so don’t plan anything else the last train for the top runs around 17:45 hence by the time you reach base it’s almost 8 pm.
One tip, you can visit a beautiful location Grindewald-first for some fun activities only if you have time.
Panorama trains: one easy way to explore Swiss hinterland is via these trains. There are almost 4 panoramic routes going criss-cross across the country. Out of those 3 start from Luzerne and one the GoldenPass goes via Interlaken to down south border. The trains are specially equipped for the panoramic views plus you can get yourselves served on board with delicious food. I would strongly recommend one of these trains (even if one has got a car) to enjoy the sheer beauty at the countryside. Also you are away from busy tourist areas allows you to relax and explore something different.
We used GoldenPass from Interlaken Ost down south. The first leg until Zweisimmen is via localtransport after that you can board train from there to enjoy a journey for another 2 hours until the last town Montreux.
Tip. One the way could change train at Montbovon to Broc-Fabrique and visit the small town together Chocolate and cheese factory. The whole would around 3 hours from Montbovon.
A visit would not have been complete if I did not mention the lake ride. Interlaken is town situated between two lakes Thunersee on east and Brienzersee on the west. Hence there are multiple ways one can plan the lake ride.
While going to or from Interlaken one get on board the ship leaving train for ex. at Thun if coming from/ going to Germany.
I had done that earlier. However this time we boarded GoldenPass to Luzerne and got down at Brienz only to come by ship to Interlaken. The whole activity took only 3 hours.
This left us with some time to visit Interlaken’s own mountain HarderKulm about 1000 meter high but extended platform at the top and car on the way to top gives breath-taking views of the city with two lakes around. It takes around 5 minutes from Interlaken Ost station to the harder base station and from there exactly 8 minutes to the top.
Lastly in order to obey my little one we took a 45 minutes train journey through the “baby train” as my little one calls it. It’s literally a small train giving a vintage look and some commentary taking around the city for. Quarter of an hour.
We ended the last day with horse ride again to obey the little one. But the person charged exorbitant 50 Swiss Franks per person, putting a generous smile that little one can ride for free !!! ;-/
Thanks for being patient with me until here. Since you are at the end one more tip.
Though I had plans to visit Pilatus or Titlis I couldn’t make it only to realize that they can be better visited by staying at Luzerne avoiding a 2 hour journey. Those are another mountains with lots of attractions and action items. After all there has to be a reason to visit another time – so let me cover that then !! :-)
On a parting note I would keep on updating/improving things as I remember or get feedbacks. Hence please do provide your valuable feedback to keep me motivated doing the same!